Can domestic cats and pet birds happily coexist in a home?

My personal answer to the question in the title is no but that’s just me. The Spruce Pets website has quite a big article on this topic. They discuss the problems but they also suggest that you can make things work with patience. They are saying that domestic cats and pet birds can live together in the same home. I wonder whether anybody should bother trying.

Is it fair to say that pet birds and pet cats rarely coexist happily for the reasons stated on this page?
Is it fair to say that pet birds and pet cats rarely coexist happily for the reasons stated on this page? Image: Mikeb
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It isn’t just that the cat is a keen predator and would want to attack the bird. The problem, as I see it, is that when the bird is protected by their cage and they see the cat their instinct would be to flee but they couldn’t. The cat would remain just outside the cage interested in the juicy prey inside and the bird would remain inside the cage with nowhere to go. That, to me, seems like a recipe for bird stress. This would be unfair on the bird. It would not be good bird caregiving as I see it. Wrong? Please tell me.

And the cat might become frustrated so it might be unfair on them as well but in this instance I’m more concerned about the bird.

You could keep the bird in a cage in a separate room where the cat is not allowed to enter which would solve the above problem. However, the cat might hear the bird and become frustrated. They might sit outside the door and try to get in. And the bird might be isolated. Doesn’t sound good to me.

I see it being problematic. I also see putting a bird in a cage as problematic. I just don’t see that as a good thing to do. Do we know how birds feel stuck in a cage the day after day or week after a week? Bored? Stressed? Desperate? It can’t be right.

I don’t see caged birds in any way being acceptable but that’s just my opinion. My conclusion is that if you’ve got a bird don’t get a cat and if you got a cat don’t get a bird.

There is an argument, on the same topic, as to whether you should get a cat if you feed birds in your backyard. It’s certainly a question worth asking. If you really love to see birds in your back garden and you feed them with pleasure, you might stress the birds if you introduce a cat into their environment. They can escape and therefore the stress levels will be pretty minimal but it wouldn’t be ideal.

RELATED: 8 ways to have an indoor/outdoor cat and feed birds without jeopardizing the birds

I have a cat and I feed the birds so I can’t criticise anybody. They find a peaceful coexistence because the pigeons can perch in a high place well away from my cat so they don’t feel frightened or stressed. If birds are allowed to move freely, they can cope very well with cats.

Some birds like magpies actually attack cats when a cat encroaches on their territory where they might have a nest with offspring. You’ll see lots of videos of magpies attacking peace-loving domestic cats, minding their own business and being thoroughly bemused by the attacking magpie.

P.S. You will see some remarkable friendships between domestic cats and birds. So, the classic relationship of predator against prey, cat against bird, is not universal when it comes to domestication of these animals. You see cats and birds that have been thoroughly socialised towards each other from when they were very young. They fully accept each other. They like each other. They are friends even. This can happen but it is unusual. Full socialisation between these pets would resolve all the issues mentioned.

Read about the story behind the picture below by clicking this link.

Mother hen incubates three kittens
Mother hen raises three kittens by incubating them as if they were eggs. Screenshot.

RELATED: Domestic cats don’t cause bird populations to decline says the RSPB

Ethics of keeping exotic pet birds

There are ethical issues in keeping birds – any species of bird that is considered to be suitable as a pet in a cage – as pets. Below is a a quote from a recently published study on pet birds dated 23 February 2021 and titled: The Sustainability of Keeping Birds as Pets: Should Any Be Kept? Link: https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020582

It is pretty damning on the pet bird industry. The reference to wild caught birds and their high levels or mortality brings to mind the capture of cubs of medium-sized and large wild cat species such as the caracal and cheetah to become pets in homes in the Middle East and in the US for example. The point is that it is bad for conservation.

This is the wider discussion. It is very relevant the discussion about putting pet birds in the home with domestic cats. Many pet birds are exotic animals such as parrots. For example, Scientific American has an article titled: Thousands of African Grey Parrots Stolen from the Wild Every Month. This is an illegal trade from the Congo. This is the unpleasant backstory.

At present, biodiversity and wild bird populations are being greatly harmed and many individual birds have poor welfare. Wild-caught birds should not be sold to the public as pets, or to breeding establishments for several reasons, including because 75–90% of wild-caught birds die before the point of sale and taking birds from the wild has negative effects on biodiversity. The housing provided for pet birds should meet the needs of birds of that species and allow good welfare, for example there should be no small cages but aviaries with space for each bird to exercise adequately, and social birds should be kept in social groups. At present, inadequate housing of many pet birds results in stereotypies and other indicators of poor welfare in birds. Owners should have knowledge of how to provide good nutrition and minimize the risk of disease.

Shawn Peng in The Sustainability of Keeping Birds as Pets: Should Any Be Kept?

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